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DateLine Sunday, 8 April 2007

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Bids under way for Colombo South Harbour project

Contract to be finalised by mid June :

Bids for the first terminal under the Colombo South Harbour Expansion Project are being prepared and by mid June the contract will be finalised said Asian Development Bank Country Director Richard Vorkes on Wednesday.

He said development of the Colombo South Harbour and the Hambantota Port will be of immense benefit to the rural farming community who will be able to sell their produce in the international markets without any hassle.

He was addressing a luncheon meeting on Rural Development, the ADB and the role of the private sector jointly organised by the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Sri Lanka and the Small and Medium Enterprise Developers in Colombo.

Vorkes said the expansion of the Colombo South Harbour is a fulfilment of a long felt need to save the port from loosing its hub status in the South Asian region and confined to a mere feeder port.

The ADB's objective was to ensure that the port remains competitive and keep freight rates low, he said.

The ADB approved a loan of US $ 300 million under a normal loan scheme in mid February this year for a three-phased expansion project which would be launched this year when all bids have been finalised. Vokes said development activities are confined to the Western and Central Provinces and not the others that lack basic infrastructure facilities.

The rural community which is mainly a farming community, an underprivileged sector faces severe constraints such as a stable market and price for their products, access to finance, lack of market information and infrastructure facilities, high post harvest losses and political victimisation.

The paddy sector is identified with rural poverty and has been a tool for politicians to further their political interest and frame policies to benefit part interests.

The plantation sector which is dominated entirely by the private sector has 95 percent of its output exported. The subsectors which contribute much to the exports of the country in terms of agri products have the potential to grow further.

The private sector has a major role to play in value addition and branding agri products to be competitive in international markets, he said.

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